Crawley Borough Council

Election results for 2019

    Elected in 2019
    Elected in 2019

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Council objects to 10,000 homes

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

The leader of Crawley council has said the authority does not support plans to build more than 10,000 homes west of Ifield.

Homes England, the government’s housing agency, wants to develop the site to include housing, schools and a relief road with work starting by 2022-23.

While the new homes would be adjacent to Crawley’s Ifield neighbourhood, the land is on Horsham council’s side of the boundary, meaning Horsham would be the decision-maker.

At a recent meeting, Crawley leader Peter Lamb said: “We do not support the application.”

However, Ken Glendinning, head of strategic land at Homes England, said: “The new neighbourhoods will create homes where they are most needed.”

Council rent arrears linked to Universal Credit roll-out

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

Crawley Town Hall

The amount of housing rent arrears owed to Crawley Borough Council has spiked since the introduction of Universal Credit.

Before the new benefits system was rolled out in June 2018, the amount of rent unpaid hovered around a £470,000 average.

In May it peaked at just under £750,000 with officers predicting a further rise to £814,000 by April.

The workload for council staff has increased so much that members of the cabinet have agreed that four new housing officers should be hired immediately, with two more at a later date.

A report put to the cabinet said there had been a number of problems with the roll-out of Universal Credit.

They included customers misunderstanding the system, which led to delays in making claims and an increase in their time without money, the delay in receiving their first payment, and tenants building up more debt because they applied for an advance but did not use it to pay their rent.

The fact that most people have to claim online also caused problems, with some not understanding how to do so, the report said.

Labour sees off Tory efforts to chair Crawley council committees

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

Labour councillors will chair all of Crawley Borough Council's committees in the coming year, despite protests from opposition Conservatives.

The Tories now have just two fewer councillors than Labour on the 36-member authority following the council elections earlier this month, prompting their leader, Duncan Crow, to call for stronger representation for his party at the head of the committees.

But councillors voted to retain Labour's dominance of the roles, while only two deputies - agreed before the meeting - will be opposition councillors.

Richard Burrett will be vice-chairman of the governance committee and Jennifer Millar-Smith vice-chairwoman of the audit committee.

The Conservatives also fielded candidates for mayor and deputy mayor, but Labour councillors secured both posts, with Raj Sharma taking the chain of office for the second time in three years. His deputy will be Shahzad Malik.

Mr Sharma said: “It is indeed a privilege to be the mayor of any town but to be the mayor of Crawley twice - and so soon - is an outstanding honour.”

Today's local news website headlines

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Plans get go-ahead despite objections

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

Plans for a new road leading to three houses built in back gardens in Southgate have been approved by Crawley Borough Council.

The access road will run between numbers 5 and 7 Southgate Road, while the detached four-bedroom houses will be built to the rear of numbers 5, 7 and 9.

Plans for new houses in Crawley
The plans have been approved despite objections

Over the years, similar applications have been approved further along the road, with numbers 11 to 17 giving up half of their lengthy gardens to new homes.

Members of the planning committee heard concerns from neighbours, who were worried about the impact of the new houses on their own homes, as well as pollution from the extra cars the development would bring.

Council writes off £1.5m debts

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

More than £460,000 of unpaid business rates are due to be written off by Crawley Borough Council.

The debts, owed by five companies, have been deemed irrecoverable for various reasons, such as going into liquidation or being based offshore.

Crawley Borough Council is writing off debts of nearly half a million

The report also said a further £693,524.48 of debts were written off in 2018/19 for bills such as housing rent, council tax and overpaid benefits, taking the total to more than £1.15m.

The highest portion of those further debts, though, was still business rates, with another £386,840.69 written off.

The report to the cabinet said the council was due to have collected £300m in business rates in 2018/19, with recovery action started for any bills not paid within a set period.

Church hall site plans 'should be refused'

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

Plans to demolish a church hall and replace it with shops and 34 homes have been submitted to Crawley Borough Council.

Councillors have been asked to refuse the application for the site of St John's church hall, which would also see the loss of the neighbouring NCP car park.

The building on the site would include 28 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom flats, seven of which would be on the ground floor.

Shops and community space would look out on to the Broadway.

No parking is included in the application - and the 29 spaces in the current car park would also be lost.

St John's plan

A report from the planning officer said the applicant had not provided an adequate heritage statement - a way of assessing the impact of the development on the church - and had not shown that the church hall was now surplus to requirements.

The report added: "The overall scale and massing of the development is considered to harm the setting of St John the Baptist Church, which is a Grade II* listed building, and is harmful to the character of the High Street Conservation Area.

The application will be put to a meeting of the planning committee at the town hall on Tuesday.

Council feels heat over power plan

Karen Dunn

Local Democracy Reporter

Crawley Borough Council has denied that its planned district heat network will cost almost £7.5m to produce.

The network will pipe heat and electricity from a combined heat and power plant at the new town hall development to nearby buildings, reducing their carbon and energy commissions.

At a meeting of the full council, Kim Jaggard (Con, Maidenbower) shared details of a report from the government's department for business, energy and industrial strategy, which said Crawley's network would cost £7.48m to complete.

Crawley Heat Network
Cartwright Pickard/Crawley Borough Council
An artists impression of the planned facility

Mrs Jaggard asked the meeting: "After the government grant of £1.25m, how is the £6.25m balance going to be funded, how much is it going to cost council taxpayers of Crawley, and how long will the payback time be before we break even?"

A council spokesman said the document referred to by Mrs Jaggard was based on a very early bid for the project.

Since then, both the cabinet and full council have received reports setting out the latest costs, budget, scale and scope of the project - but due to reasons of commercial sensitivity, they have not been discussed in public.